Israel considers halt of arms sales to Georgia

The Israeli foreign ministry has proposed to completely halt the arms sales to Georgia amid fears of Russian retaliation, local daily Ha'aretz reported Sunday.

"Israel needs to be very careful and sensitive these days," an unnamed senior political source was quoted as saying of Israel's stance over the recent fighting between Georgian and Russian forces in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia.

The Israeli foreign ministry last week held a meeting on the issue, and decided to recommend the defense ministry to avoid the sales of any military equipment to Georgia because the country was now a "combat zone," said the report.

The newspaper added that the Jewish state is concerned that its continued military support for Georgia would spur Russia to retaliate by lifting restrictions on its arms transfers to Iran and Arab states.

"The Russians are selling many arms to Iran and Syria and there is no need to offer them an excuse to sell even more advanced weapons," the source said.

He highlighted that Israel is particularly concerned about Russia's interest in transferring advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, which Israel considers to be its main strategic threat.

The Israeli defense ministry imposed significant limitations on the arms transfers to Georgia about six months ago, only allowing defensive equipment and advisers, in view of the growing friction between Tbilisi and Moscow, Ha'aretz reported.

Also in the day, the defense establishment held a special meeting to discuss the various arms deals held by Israelis in Georgia, yet no change of policy has been announced, according to another daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

"The subject is closely monitored," the newspaper quoted defense sources as saying. "So far, we have placed no limitations on the sale of protective measures."

Israel began selling arms to Georgia about seven years ago, and the scope of the defense deals between the two countries stands at200 million U.S. dollars, said the newspapers.

South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s and was governed by a secessionist government since then although its independence has not been internationally recognized.

On Friday, Georgian troops began a military action against South Ossetia's forces in an attempt to re-establish control over the region. In response, Russian troops moved into the region to fight the Georgian forces.

[Source: Xinhua, Jerusalem, 10Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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